With this fabulous vehicle you can drive from Alaska to Siberia.
The Scourge of Arial! Another thing I've always been kind of a geek about is typography and fonts. When I was a little kid, I had entire books of nothing but fonts. I couldn't really tell you why; it's probably a sign of some deep-seated psychological trauma. Anyhoo, I'm mostly over that now, but a good article on typography and graphic design is still likely to catch my eye. This article explains exactly where that vaguely unpleasant Arial font that infests all Microsoft products came from, and why it's so vaguely unpleasant. As I've noticed before, like most online articles about typography it is also a devastatingly pretty web page. While you're there, you can also read about anachronistic fonts and typography in movies -- sort of the font designer's version of Bad Astronomy.
The Atari Document Library contains memos from the early days of Atari, including the original design proposals and concept art for classic arcade games such as Star Wars and Battlezone. For a classic arcade game geek like myself it's fascinating stuff.
Comet Ikeya-Zhang will be visible after sunset in North America for the next few weeks -- at least if you're in a dark area out in the country. Those of you who are actually in heavily populated, brightly-lit areas... God, I envy you.
Sorry, you don't get out today without at least one war link. One thing I haven't been able to understand, now that I've been following the issue more closely, is why Yasser Arafat has gotten so many second chances -- after a decades-long campaign of terror, after destroying nearly every country that's had the misfortune of hosting him, after brazenly and repeatedly attacking the most powerful and warlike nations in the world, after breaking his promises to reform over and over and over again; even now after months of suicide bombings, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon (an amoral thug of a leader if one ever existed) can't bear to pull the trigger and the U.S. State Department is throwing every effort it can into rescuing the old creep one more time. This article suggests an explanation.
Hoping for a break from the anguish and despair of a world gone insane? Too bad. What kind of a planet is this where there is even a question about right and wrong in this conflict? As more than one person has commented recently, perhaps instead of using tanks and helicopters the Israeli Defense Forces should instead plant bombs in Palestinian restaurants and shops and blow them up at random? Would that quiet the critics? Oh, never mind; this cry of anguish is much better than mine. But, you know, I hate linking to cries of anguish.
More than you could ever possibly want to know about the famous "Wow!" signal, the most intriguing signal ever received in the decades-long search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
The Office of Homeland Security's color-coded "terrorist warning system" is neatly skewered here. I remember a few months ago how some people were up in arms about the allegedly Orwellian feel of this whole Homeland Security stuff. Not me. I used to live in Pennsylvania -- and God willing someday I will again, but anyway -- Tom Ridge was governor of my state, and he was a mediocre, mendacious, corrupt, incompetent boob. With him in charge, our civil liberties have nothing to fear. Unfortunately, neither do the terrorists.
What is it with France, anyway?
Lots of stars and planets to be seen in the sky this month. I predict that in Monmouth it will be cloudy the whole time.
Well, that didn't take long, did it. I want to comment, but I can't say anything that compares with the experience of someone who was actually there. As is increasingly common these days, the only reaction I can summon up to the news of the world is disgust and vague anger.
The secret technology behind Google: PigeonRank. "The ease of training pigeons was documented early in the annals of science and fully explored by noted psychologist B.F. Skinner, who demonstrated that with only minor incentives, pigeons could be trained to execute complex tasks such as playing ping pong, piloting bombs or revising the Abatements, Credits and Refunds section of the national tax code."
The idea of artificial societies should make sense to anybody who's ever played with Conway's Game of Life: make an artificial sandbox inside a computer, place some rules in it for how the agents within it can interact, set up a starting condition and let it run to see what happens. Some artifical societies eerily predict how neighborhoods can self-segregate even in the absence of racism, how small, high-profile law enforcement actions can have a disproportionate effect on a city's crime rate, and -- sadly, but believably enough -- how, when ethnic tension is rife, genocide can break out almost overnight and "peacekeepers" are powerless to stop it. Comparisons to Isaac Asimov's science-fictional "psychohistory" are left as an exercise for the reader.
Ho hum. Another day, another crime against humanity. I'm no good at talking about current events. But speaking as someone who was born Jewish but never really took it very seriously: This powerful bit of writing was almost unnerving in how accurately it summed up what's going through my head right now.
Back in 1964, a scientist named Nikolai Kardashev proposed a method for classifying human and alien civilizations based on how much energy they were able to harness for the purposes of communication. Just thinking about the scale involved is daunting.
Well, poopie. I've discovered the real reason 7 South Dearborn is no more: the group that was hired to get financing for the new world's tallest skyscraper in Chicago defrauded the developers and the whole project went to pieces. The developers did nothing wrong and the bad guys have been arrested, but still, it's awfully hard to recover from this sort of thing. Bastards. I wanted to see this happen.
And if that wasn't enough, I've discovered that the actual honest no-kidding tallest structure in the entire world is the KVLY television mast in Fargo, North Dakota. Huh. No offense to the fine, fine citizens of Fargo, and as television masts go it's very nice, but... that's kinda unromantic, isn't it? Come on, people. We've got to do better here, or the terrorists will have won!
Hmm. Okay, this might satisfy me.